Cubs Sign Yu Darvish

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NOW we get into the juicy stuff. After a long while, Yu Darvish has signed a 6-year $126M contract with the Chicago Cubs after 5 and a half years with the Rangers and half a season with the Dodgers, where he helped them on a World Series run (even if his actual World Series performance left a lot to be desired). Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in the game but hasn’t been able to realize a lot of his potential due in large part to injury, namely Tommy John surgery which cost him much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016. Darvish was finally healthy in 2017 and he had a solid year, going 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and 209 strikeouts between the Rangers and Dodgers. He looks for a fresh new start with a talented Cubs rotation that underperformed in 2017 but looks to get back on track to try and return to their championship glory from 2016.

Here’s how the Cubs’ rotation is expected to look with Darvish in the mix and the now expected departure of former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whom I will get to in a moment:

1. Jon Lester

2. Yu Darvish

3. Kyle Hendricks

4. Jose Quintana

5. Tyler Chatwood/Drew Smyly

That’s a pretty formidable rotation provided everybody pitches to their ability. Couple that with an extremely potent lineup and the Cubs have all the makings of a World Series favorite. Though pitching to their ability is the big concern here. Lester is coming off his worst season since 2012, as he went 13-8 with a 4.33 ERA and 180 strikeouts. He turned 34 last month so one has to wonder if his skills may be on the decline. Quintana was very inconsistent last season. His month-by-month ERA was a big indicator to that. Starting in April, Quintana’s monthly ERA’s were 5.22, 5.91, 1.78, 3.45, 5.73, 2.51. So of those 6 months, 3 were really bad and 3 were either solid or excellent. It all averaged out to an ERA of 4.15, which is a far cry from what we know he’s capable of. Hendricks was probably Chicago’s most consistent starter in 2017 as he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 123 strikeouts during an injury-plagued season. When healthy, Hendricks is capable of being the ace of this loaded staff but if Chicago is going to make another run at the World Series, they’re going to need him on the mound every five days.

Which brings me to Jake Arrieta. The 2015 NL Cy Young winner seems to not be returning to Wrigley with the signing of Darvish, however I expect now that Darvish has signed, Arrieta will soon follow. I think the main reason it’s taken this long for either guy to sign was because they were waiting each other out, trying to see what the other would get so that they could use it as a comparison in their negotiations. Now that Arrieta has seen that Darvish is valued by the Cubs at $21M per year, he can use that to his advantage to make even more. All he has to say to teams that want to pay him comparable money to Darvish is “Yu is valued at $21M, he’s injured all the time, he doesn’t even have a Cy Young award and he sucked in the World Series. I have a Cy Young Award and a 2.38 ERA in the 2016 World Series.” Immediately that’s going to land him at least $25M. So Arrieta ought to send Darvish a thank you card for signing first, though this for sure means that Arrieta won’t be returning to the Cubs.

However this presents an interesting conundrum for the Cubs and it has everything to do with next offseason. Bryce Harper has made it known, whether intentional or not, that his first choice to sign in the 2018 offseason would be with the Chicago Cubs. He’s childhood friends with Cubs superstar third baseman Kris Bryant and he named his dog “Wrigley.” The writing is on the wall for that one. However, Harper will be just 26 years old when he hits free agency and many have speculated he may command Major League Baseball’s first ever $400M contract. Will the Cubs be able to afford that with the current payroll they have? Not likely. So there will need to be some work done on the salary front and many potentially key players needing to be moved in order to afford that deal. It can be done, though, and I do expect we’ll be seeing Harper in Cubby blue starting in 2019.

That’s going to do it for this piece on the Yu Darvish signing. Let me know what you think this does for the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Some Stories I Have With Each Member of the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Class

Before I get into this blog, I just wanted to say that nothing is harsh enough for Larry Nassar. I will get into the ramifications a little more at a later date as it pertains to Michigan State when more information becomes public. But as it stands right now, Michigan State could be facing charges in a similar fashion to Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky case. Not good.

Now on to the more positive stuff, 6 men will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York on July 29. 2 from the Veteran’s Committee and 4 from the Baseball Writer’s Association. From the Veteran’s Committee we have Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. From the BBWA, we have Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman. I won’t get too deep into their backgrounds and resumes because I already did a month or so ago. But I do have some memories of each one. This will qualify as both a baseball blog and a personal story because I actually do have some kind of attachment to each.

I’ll start with Chipper Jones, who made the class of 2018 with 97.2% of the vote. I never got a chance to see him play live in a traditional MLB game, however I did get a chance to see him play in a Spring Training game back in 2011. My high school baseball team took a trip to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for our own Spring Training and the Atlanta Braves’ facility was a part of this complex, so one night a bunch of us went to a Braves-Nationals game. That was the one time I got to see Chipper play. The Braves won the game 7-6, but nearly blew a 6-0 lead after a couple innings. I believe Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Dan Uggla homered. Now that I think about it, I know Heyward did, not sure about the others. I’m not even sure if Jones played, to be fair, because I can’t find any boxscores of that game. Step up your Spring Training databases MLB!

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Next up is Vladimir Guerrero, who got in with 92.9% of the vote. I remember the first time I saw Vlad play was in 2006 when he was a member of the Angels. This was quite frankly the best game I think I’ve ever attended. The Red Sox came back from down 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th and won 7-6 in 11 innings on a David Ortiz single up the middle to drive in Alex Gonzalez from second with two outs. However Vlad was NOT a factor in this game at all. He had two at bats before he left the game with a bad back. He saw six pitches. He struck out twice. Luckily for Vlad, I knew what he was capable of going into this game so it didn’t tarnish my opinion of him, it more hyped up Josh Beckett for me, who was Boston’s starting pitcher that day. I believe I saw Vlad play again when he was with the Rangers in 2010, I’ll have to fact check that one. Just fact checked it, I did. Vlad went 3-5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored in a 7-2 Rangers win. Now that I think about it, I think that was the game I went to where Tim Wakefield got yanked before finishing the third inning. His knuckleball was just not working. In fact, another thing I remember from that is the very next day, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle. What a world we lived in back in 2010. But yeah, I got to see Vlad play twice. First time he was awful, second time he was really good. But a Hall of Fame career nonetheless.

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Next we have Jim Thome, who made the Hall of Fame with 89.8% of the vote and became the third first baseman ever to reach the Hall of Fame on his first try. It’s actually a funny story about how Thome became my favorite non-Red Sox player. I was in first grade and a friend of mine had brought in this little booklet with a bunch of baseball activities for kids our age. One of these was a word search with players’ names. I noticed that one player was named Jim and I immediately grew attached to him, thinking “wow, that’s awesome!” A few weeks later I was at another friend’s house and he had the Red Sox game on. The Sox were playing the Phillies in Interleague action and I saw the screen show a graphic of the Phillies first baseman being Jim Thome. I thought to myself, “wow! That’s the guy from the word search!” Thome had been my favorite ever since that day. I only got to see him play once and that was back in 2008 when he was a member of the White Sox. I was in Florida with my grandparents and they took me to a game at Tropicana Field. Thome was hitting third that game and he homered off of Rays starter Edwin Jackson in his first at bat as the White Sox beat the eventual American League champions 6-0. I actually have another funny story regarding this game that doesn’t relate to Thome. So my grandpa LOVES to spoil me and he got us some PRIME tickets to this game. We were sitting about three rows back from the on deck circle right by the Rays dugout. Well while I was sitting there, I looked over to the Rays dugout and there’s Johnny Gomes right at the edge fixing up his gear. Earlier that day, my brother had told me to get him an autograph, kind of out of jest. But now I had an opportunity to actually get one. My grandpa gave me a pad of paper and a pen and I walked over towards the dugout and yelled “Johnny!” Instinctively, Johnny looked up and had this deer-in-the-headlights look of “oh shit, I shouldn’t have reacted to that.” I probably had the look of “oh shit, he looked up,” so as soon as I got the chance, I held out my pad of paper and said “can you sign this?” He said no but then immediately after the Rays took the field. I didn’t get an autograph, but I was such a big baseball fan/nerd that the fact that I had an interaction with Johnny Gomes was more than enough for me. My dad thinks he’s an asshole for not taking two seconds out of his day to sign a 12 year-old kid’s pad of paper, but I didn’t care at the time and I don’t care now. But yeah, that’s my Jim Thome story.

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Finally we have Trevor Hoffman. In 2016, I did a volunteership with Major League Baseball and helped move the DJ’s stage for the Home Run Derby. A benefit of this was I had free access to MLB’s fan fest for each day they were holding it. I unfortunately missed out on Trevor Hoffman twice. The first time was for getting his autograph, as he was doing a signing when I arrived. While I was in line, his hour was up and I missed my opportunity for him. However, I learned that next up was Steve Garvey, so I couldn’t complain. Here’s a picture of me getting the 1974 NL MVP’s autograph.

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The next day I actually got that hat I was wearing signed by Fred Lynn. It’s smudged now, but I know whose it is and I never had any intention of selling it. But after I got Garvey’s autograph, I wandered around the San Diego Convention Center and saw that Hoffman was giving pitching lessons. I immediately hopped in line, but once again, the line was too long and his hour was up. So I just watched him give lessons to other people, which was totally fine by me.

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I don’t have any stories about Trammell or Morris except that my mom loved both of them, as she’s from Canton, Michigan and grew up a big Tigers fan, though I’m pretty sure Lou Whitaker was her favorite. That’s going to do it for this blog, congratulations to the inductees. I’m a little peeved that Edgar Martinez and Curt Schilling got snubbed once again, but Martinez got 70.4% of the vote meaning he’s pretty much a lock for 2019. Schilling, I’m not as sure. Let me know what you think of the balloting results in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Hot Stove Roundup

Two players from my Top 10 Free Agent Rankings came off the market among several other moves that were made on Friday. Seems that the signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Angels really did open up the floodgates. So let’s take a look at who’s headed where.

Carlos Santana signs with the Phillies

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This was the big surprise move for me, though I can’t say I’m too shocked to see the Phillies actively searching for some talent now that all those albatross contracts are finally off the books. Though I am surprised that Santana chose the Phillies in this situation. Santana signed a 3-year $60 million deal with a $17.5 million club option for a fourth year with the Phillies, who are coming off a last place finish in the NL East and had the second worst record in the National League. Santana was a part of a winning organization in the Indians prior to this, where he was a big part of their lineup that had the best record in 2017 and nearly won a World Series in 2016. Santana has been one of those guys that, along with some good power, has had a keen eye for the plate. He is coming off a season that featured a 13.2% walk rate, which was the lowest of his career but still ranked 18th in all of baseball. He’s got good power if he does get his pitch as well, as he’s hit 57 home runs over the last two seasons while being a well-above average defender at first base, which is where he will likely slot in with the Phillies. Santana will likely supplant the incumbent Tommy Joseph at first, who underwhelmed in the starting role, as he only hit .240 with a .289 OBP though he showed some good pop with 22 home runs. In addition to the signing of Santana, the Phillies are trading shortstop Freddy Galvis to the Padres for a minor league prospect, opening the door for top prospect JP Crawford to take over as the full-time shortstop. Here’s what a potential Phillies lineup would look like with Santana.

1. Odubel Herrera-CF

2. JP Crawford-SS

3. Rhys Hoskins-LF

4. Carlos Santana-1B

5. Aaron Altherr-RF

6. Maikel Franco-3B

7. Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp-C

8. Cesar Hernandez-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Still not an imposing lineup by any stretch, but one that definitely looks a lot better than last year with the addition of Santana and the emergence of Hoskins. Santana’s ability to draw walks gives new manager Gabe Kapler a lot of different lineup combinations to play with, as he often batted leadoff for Terry Francona in Cleveland because of his great eye. With how bad most of the NL East is outside of Washington, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Phillies quietly emerge as the second best team in the division. Though it is equally likely that they could finish last again. Such is the NL East. As for the Tribe, there’s a bit of a hole at first base, though I think part of last year’s Edwin Encarnacion signing was in preparation for this. If they want to have Encarnacion return to first base, that gives Francona a bunch of options at DH, such as Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, or Hell, even Jason Kipnis if you want to go with Jose Ramirez at 2B and Giovanny Urshela at 3B (which is the better defensive rotation). Lots of options for Tito to work with despite losing a big bat.

Zack Cozart signs with the Angels

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Anaheim strikes again. This time, they sign Zack Cozart away from the Cincinnati Reds and will move him from shortstop to third base because of obvious Andrelton Simmons-related reasons. Cozart was a guy I highlighted in my Free Agent rankings and I mentioned that he’s had some really good seasons at the plate the last couple of years that have each been cut short due to injury. But when healthy, Cozart is a pretty underrated hitter who was finally getting some recognition, as he was voted to the All Star Game in 2017. In 122 games, Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI and was worth 5 WAR. Had a bigger-name player put up those numbers, they’d be receiving a $100 million contract but because it’s Cozart and he’s not nearly as big a household name, his deal is for 3 years and $38 million. However age might be a concern in the near future, as he is finally truly breaking out at the age of 32, which may explain the lighter contract a little better.I feel like I do this Angels lineup a lot, but here is what the Angels look like with Cozart in the mix.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

If you were to tell me back in 2011 that Albert Pujols would be the weakest link in his starting lineup headed into 2018, I’d say that’s about as likely as the Houston Astros winning a World Series. Well well we live in a VERY different world today than we did in 2011 as we can plainly see and this Angels team on paper should compete with anybody in baseball. That being said, the pitching staff NEEDS to stay healthy, that’s the real key here. The Halos will score runs, I have no doubt about that. But preventing runs is going to be a struggle if something isn’t done about their pitching, in the starting staff and the bullpen.

Matt Moore traded to the Rangers

XXX at Chase Field on September 26, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The San Francisco Giants traded Matt Moore to the Texas Rangers for some prospects in what was likely a salary dump. Moore is set to make $19 million over the next two years and that’s a lot of money to pay the guy who had the worst ERA amongst qualifiers, which is a shame too because this is a guy who showed a lot of promise in Tampa. He was supposed to become their ace, as he started a playoff game so early in his career that he seemed destined for great things. But then injuries became a factor, as Moore underwent Tommy John surgery not long after making that playoff start after only 9 career innings in the Major Leagues. Upon returning, he had a solid season in 2013, going 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 starts. But injuries struck again as he was only able to make 2 starts in 2014 due to injury. Things just never took off. Eventually, he was traded to the Giants for Matt Duffy. Moore struggled in a Giants uniform, though he managed to stay healthy in his year and a half by the bay. Hopefully this newfound health can help him discover a rhythm and he can find some consistency. If he can, then the Rangers will have a steal on their hands because this guy is as talented as they come.

Yankees are discussing a Gerrit Cole Trade with the Pirates

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Hey, Yankees. Could you fuck off? As if it wasn’t bad enough that the Yankees already acquired Giancarlo Stanton for a bag of peanuts, they’re being linked to the likes of Manny Machado and now Gerrit Cole. Cole has some of the best stuff I’ve seen out of a righty in the Majors. His fastball consistently hits around 96 while his breaking pitches are absolutely ferocious. Cole had a down year in 2017, as he pitched to a 4.26 ERA but that was due in large part to the fact he let up a lot of home runs, as his 1.37 home runs per 9 innings was 15th in the Majors. PNC Park is relatively hitter-friendly in general but if you were to put him in Yankee Stadium, that could spell disaster for the righty. However, in order to hit a home run, you still gotta hit the baseball. Cole is more than capable of 200 strikeout seasons, which he achieved in his excellent 2015 season and nearly achieved in 2017 (196). He missed a large portion of 2016 due to injury. The package being rumored to be involved in a potential Cole trade includes Clint Frazier, who is one of the brighter youngsters the Yankees have in their system. He’s kind of in a logjam in the outfield at the moment, as Judge, Gardner, Ellsbury, Hicks, and Stanton are all likely going to have priority over him. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s outfield has underachieved and the Pirates appear to be shopping basically everybody, so there could be an opening for Frazier. Cole was initially drafted out of high school by the Yankees with the 28th pick in the first round of the 2008 draft but he elected to go to college at UCLA and was the number 1 pick of the 2011 draft by the Pirates, so the Yankees do have some familiarity with the righty. I would just hate to have to face him several times a year.

Also Fernando Rodney has a job again, as the Twins signed him to a 1-year deal for $4.5 million with incentives that could push it to $6 million with an option for 2019. This seems to happen every year, as Rodney will have an awful year, hit free agency, get picked up immediately, then have an otherworldly year, then sign with a new team and repeat the process. I’m not even going to try and guess how many times this guy has changed uniforms in the last 5 years. That wraps up another edition of the Hot Stove. Let me know who you think might be next to get off the market in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

Finally, the first domino of the MLB offseason has fallen. After the Marlins traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners for a bunch of prospects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Well, they have, as the Anaheim Angels have signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani just a day after Gordon was traded. Ohtani is probably the most intriguing player to come out of Japan since Ichiro mainly because of the prospect of his being a 2-way player. Not only can he hit 100 mph with his fastball on the mound, but he is also very capable of hitting a baseball a very long way.

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Ohtani has been a professional baseball player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League since he was 18 years old. When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the outfield there. His best all-around season was easily his 2016 season, as he hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while on the mound he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters over 140 innings. So naturally, when it was made public that he had intentions to play overseas in the United States, Major League Baseball got interested.

It was a very interesting signing process, as Ohtani would tell several high profile teams that he didn’t want to play for them, most notably the Red Sox, Yankees, and Twins, all of whom made the postseason in 2017. He even put the Phillies in a bodybag with this comment.

There was some backlash from fans and some members of the media, many of whom criticized Ohtani for being arrogant and seeming to not care so much about winning. Eventually, he narrowed his list down to 7 teams: the Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Giants. Last I had heard, it appeared that the Mariners were the frontrunners to acquire the talented star, which didn’t surprise me as the Mariners had always been a preferred destination for Japanese players, as it is the closest team to their home country (Ichiro and Kenji Johjima come to mind as well as a few others whose names I’m spacing on). This was as recently as Friday morning, just hours before it was reported he was signing with Anaheim.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Ohtani had made his decision and will be signing with the Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after all these years because that’s stupid. They’re in Anaheim. They’ve been called the Anaheim Angels. What’s the point of putting Los Angeles in front?). Reportedly one of the deal makers for Ohtani was a Facetime call with Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who couldn’t meet in person because his wedding is today. It’s unknown what Trout said, but it must have been really convincing because the Angels were never really considered to be favorites to land Ohtani. The most in international bonus money they can offer is around $2.3 million, which is significantly less than what the Mariners and Rangers could have offered. Ohtani’s booking fee is less than the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, luckily for the Angels, as it’s only around $20 million, whereas the former two had booking fees of around $50 million each. As of right now, we don’t know what his actual contract is going to be, but I doubt it’s going to be anywhere near what other Japanese superstars have gotten based on the most recent CBA.

So where does Ohtani fit in with the Angels? It’s hard to say, really. They’d be fools not to give him a chance to be a two-way player so it will certainly be intriguing to see how manager Mike Scioscia decides to use him. He’s battled injuries throughout his career in Japan so he’s a guy they may want to keep a close eye on health-wise. I have a feeling that being a two-way player may have something to do with his injury history and it could impact him greatly in the Major Leagues. I think after enough DL stints, Scioscia will decide enough is enough and have him stick to one or the other. But for the beginning of the year, at least, he will more than likely do both. It’s likely that he will be in the starting rotation for much of the year and in games he doesn’t pitch in, we could see him DH for the Halos, allowing him to go through a normal regimen for a starting pitcher while also getting a few hacks in. I doubt he’ll see much time in the field, as the Angels already have one of the better outfields in baseball, with Mike Trout in centerfield, Justin Upton in left, and Kole Calhoun in right. Albert Pujols is currently the DH but the only reason he’s still on the roster right now is because of that monstrous contract. If Scioscia really wants to keep him in the lineup, that will likely bump the incumbent CJ Cron from his duties at first base. It seems that Cron is the odd man out in this situation and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded sometime in the near future. Cron is only 27 years old and is making the Major League minimum right now, so you can bet there will be teams calling GM Billy Eppler about him. Here’s what the Angels lineup would look like with Otani:

1. Andrelton Simmons-SS

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

4. Albert Pujols-1B

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Kole Calhoun-RF

7. Luis Valbuena-3B

8. Martin Maldonado-C

9. Jefry Marte-2B

That has the potential to be a very formidable lineup. It’s also worth mentioning that on days that Ohtani is pitching, the Angels could decline their option to use a DH and have him bat for himself. People often forget the DH in the AL isn’t mandatory, it’s an option that’s given to each team, but naturally they use it because most pitchers aren’t exactly Shohei Ohtani with a bat in hand. As for the starting rotation, it would look something like this:

1. Garrett Richards

2. Shohei Ohtani

3. Matt Shoemaker

4. Tyler Skaggs

5. Andrew Heaney

Not as formidable-looking, but it has the potential to be very good if these guys can stay healthy (which has been a MAJOR issue for this bunch the last couple years). Personally, I think Ohtani is better as a pitcher, as his fastball can hit as high as 102 mph with a splitter/sinker that just falls off the table at the end. He was also most consistently good as a pitcher in Japan, as his highest batting average outside of his 2016 season is .274, while his ERA has consistently been under 3 since his rookie year. The main issue for this kid has been health, as he missed a large chunk of his 2017 season due to injury. But when healthy, this is what he can do (just a heads up, it’s long as shit, about 22 minutes).

So that ends one of the more interesting free agent sagas of recent memory. Once the details of his contract are finalized, we can get back into focusing on what other high profile players will do, which I’m chomping at the bit for because the highest-profile free agent to sign with a new team so far is Doug Fister with the Rangers. Not exactly what I’d call earth-shaking.

Also, what is the deal with the spelling of his last name? Every site I go to that talks about this guy, they either spell his last name “Otani” without the ‘h’ or “Ohtani” with the ‘h.’ For this blog, I went with the ‘h’ because that was how it was spelled on the back of his jersey in the video I embedded. But seriously, try googling both spellings. Google doesn’t correct you for the wrong one. If anybody knows why that is, PLEASE tell me, because it is so confusing to me.

So this is what a Saturday is like without college football picks. I know, I did promise I would do a whole Army-Navy segment before, but when I got to writing it, I came to the realization that I don’t know nearly enough about them to do the kind of blog I wanted to do. Then Ohtani signed and I felt that would take precedent. Fear not, I will still pick that game.

Projected Score: Navy 20 Army 17

Sorry West Point, but the Midshipmen regain bragging rights after losing last year for the first time since 2001. But it’s going to be a quick game as neither team commits many penalties and there is a LOT of running the football and very few reasons to stop the clock.

That’s my semi-double-blog for this week. What do you think of the Ohtani signing? How about your thoughts on the Army-Navy game? Let me know in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

Before I get into the power rankings, I want to just say Rest in Peace to Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was 40 years old. Halladay was a husband and father of two and was widely considered to be one of the best human beings in baseball, as he was very involved in the community, from charity work to coaching little league. He was also a phenomenal pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, winning the Cy Young Award in 2003 and 2010, an 8-time All Star, and the embodiment of a workhorse. Since 1998, when Halladay made his Major League debut, no pitcher has thrown more complete games than Halladay’s 67. He retired in 2013 and that number since 1998 still hasn’t been caught. For a while, it was pretty safe to say that Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball, as his stretch between 2008-2011 was some of the most dominant years of pitching I’ve ever seen. His 2010 season was particularly special, as it included a perfect game against the Marlins and a no hitter in his postseason debut (second in postseason history) against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. Rest in Peace, Roy Halladay (1977-2017), you will be missed by all.

On a happier note, free agency has officially kicked off in Major League Baseball and speculation as to who’s headed where and who is due for a big contract will be the talk of the next four months or so. This year’s class is essentially the warmup to the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado class of 2018 that will be sure to shake the foundation of baseball to its core, but it is still loaded with plenty of star power. So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.

#10. Zack Cozart-Shortstop

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photo credit: FirstAndMonday

Zack Cozart has been the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds for a few years now but has battled injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2014. However when he has been healthy, he’s been very effective, especially in the last two seasons, 2017 being his best. He hit .297 this season in 122 games with 24 home runs and 63 RBI while also playing some solid defense, which accumulated to a WAR of 5.0. He also earned his first All Star nod, and in turn, won a donkey from Joey Votto. You read that correctly. Here’s the story. Cozart may not be a household name, but he’s been playing the best baseball of his career and whichever team signs him will have themselves a heck of a player, provided he can stay healthy.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Mets

#9. Carlos Santana-First Baseman/DH

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photo credit: Waiting for Next Year

Carlos Santana is an oddity mainly because he often batted leadoff for the Cleveland Indians despite being a first baseman that lacks speed. It’s mainly because he draws a LOT of walks thanks to having one of the best eyes for the plate in baseball. He’s been really consistent these last two seasons, as he batted .259 in both 2016 AND 2017, and his on base percentage was .366 in 2016 and .363 in 2017. His power numbers were down from 2016, he hit a career-high 34 in 2016 and 23 in 2017, but he is still a threat to go yard if a pitcher hangs one on him.

Projected Team: Returns to the Cleveland Indians

#8. Jay Bruce-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sporting News

Jay Bruce has spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds but since being traded to the Mets in 2016, he’s had some of his best success at the plate. He hit 33 home runs between the Reds and Mets in 2016, then hit 36 bombs and drove in 101 runs between the Mets and Indians in 2017. He has only hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season once (2014) and that was by far the worst year of his career. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the game and many teams are hesitant to run against him.

Projected Team: Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

#7. Mike Moustakas-Third Baseman

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: MLB Trade Rumors

Moustakas had a MONSTROUS offensive breakout this season, hitting 38 home runs (his previous best was 22) and 85 RBI while hitting a solid .272. Moustakas was a key cog in the Royals’ 2015 championship run, and his defense has typically been a major positive at the hot corner (however it has been steadily trending downward since 2012). Moustakas is one of four players on this list from the 2015 champion Royals team (three of which were still with KC at the end of the 2017 season) and he will be a big factor for whomever signs him.

Projected Team: Signs with San Francisco Giants

#6. Wade Davis-Closing Pitcher

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photo credit: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Wade Davis is one of a plethora of pitchers with promise who flamed out as starters, but once they moved to the bullpen, they rescue their careers. Davis is probably the best example of this and has been absolutely dominant since he was named the closer of the Royals in 2015 and he was a big boost for the Cubs’ bullpen in 2017. Davis was Chicago’s only All Star in 2017 and had a 2.30 ERA, which was actually his WORST since he became a reliever in 2014. Just let that sink in.

Projected Team: Returns to Chicago Cubs

#5. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: Baseball Prospectus

Lorenzo Cain has been pretty consistent since 2014, his average typically hovering around the .300 mark with moderate power while playing some solid defense in centerfield. I wouldn’t say Cain is an elite player, but he’s a good one who will be an impact on any lineup, best part being you pretty much know what you’re going to get out of him. Health was an issue for him in 2016 but he was totally healthy in 2017, playing in 155 games.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Yankees

#4. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman

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photo credit; The Inquisitr

Eric Hosmer is the last of 4-straight members of the 2015 Royals on this list. While I did note in my luck blog that he was probably the luckiest hitter in baseball in 2017, he is still one of the better first basemen in the game. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, slashing .318/.385/.498, all career highs, and tied his career high of 25 home runs while playing in all 162 games. He’s a below-average defender at first base, but that’s probably the one position where I don’t care too much about defense, unless they are absolutely abysmal.

Projected Team: Signs with Boston Red Sox

#3. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Jake Arrieta’s second half of 2015 was perhaps the most dominant stretch of pitching I have ever seen. It’s kind of been downhill since, though it is almost impossible to do much better. He’s still one of the game’s better pitchers, as he had an ERA of 3.53, his worst since joining the Cubs, but still better than what you get out of most pitchers. He was hurt, however, by the fact that opponents had a .279 BABIP against him, a career-worst, which may suggest that he just got unlucky last season.

Projected Team: Signs with Texas Rangers

#2. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Yu Darvish had a terrible showing in the Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Astros but that shouldn’t put a damper on peoples’ opinions on his abilities as a pitcher. When healthy, Darvish is one of the most electrifying righties in baseball. He had a 3.86 ERA on the year, 3.38 since his trade to the Dodgers from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline, as he played his first full season since missing much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s never struck out fewer than 10 batters per 9 innings in his career and his control has gotten better each season, as he has cut down on his walks per 9 every year (technically it did go up by 0.02 from 2016-17, but that’s so minuscule that I think it’s fair to overlook).

Projected Team: Resigns with Los Angeles Dodgers

#1. JD Martinez-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sports from the Basement

Holy shit did JD Martinez have a big year. Between the Tigers and Diamondbacks (where he was traded at the Trade Deadline), Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI, numbers that would easily have him in the MVP discussion had he not switched leagues. 29 of those 45 bombs came in his 2 months in Arizona, as he helped catapult the Diamondbacks to a playoff run. Martinez missed the first month of the season due to injury but upon his return he was unstoppable, and I think it’s fair to expect that he continue to thrive, as he only just turned 30 in August.

Projected Team: Resigns with Arizona Diamondbacks

Others that just missed the list: Todd Frazier-Third Baseman, Eduardo Nunez-Utility, Alex Cobb-Starting Pitcher, Carlos Gonzalez-Outfielder, Jonathan Lucroy-Catcher

Those are my free agency rankings for this season. Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.